Shrinking the Economy

A Spy in the House of Work

Hey, it seems to work for that macho Tony Soprano guy. And it seems to work for that weeny-wussy Woody Allen guy. So I figure, the way I'm feeling — the way the whole world is feeling — maybe it won't hurt to, as they say, seek some professional help. I checked with Rhonda, my sane-as-gym-socks old bud, who, it turns out, has been going to sessions three times a week since her desk was removed and her job was eliminated to make room for a cactus. Then I asked Spud, my former boss from PotatoWare (the productless software company), and he said that he'd been, shall we say, "hitting the couch" ever since his dotcom IPO went RIP. All in all, I called a half-dozen refugees from that distant land we used to call the new economy. Turns out, they're all seeing the same guy.

Next thing I know, I've joined the bummer parade. I'm sitting in the analyst's waiting room, staring at my shoes, when the door opens and in walks this sad sack of a figure.

I don't want to stare, but I can't help myself. I can't take my eyes off the guy. He's young . . . but he's old. He's in good shape . . . but he's beat to hell. He's well dressed . . . but his whole appearance is in shambles. He's good-looking . . . but he's a freaking mess. Now, I'm new to this whole world. The only psycho I know is Alfred Hitchcock's movie. And I wouldn't know Siggy Freud from Siegfried & Roy. But this dude is a walking cry for help.

"So," I casually ask, "how ya doin'?"

"Just fine," he replies. "Terrible."

"Really?" I counter.

"Yes," he says. "No."

"Pardon my saying so," I say, "but you look really depre — "

"Don't ever say that word to me!" he snaps. "My great-grandfather suffered from that back in 1929, and since then, no one in my family has uttered the word."

"Okay," I recover. "Then maybe you're having a little re — "

" — cession?" he interrupts. "No way. When my old man went through that in the '70s, I said, That's not gonna be me."

"Repression. I meant repression," I say.

"Do I look repressed? I'm here to learn how to grow. In fact, I'm all about growth. Getting bigger. More. Larger. Higher. None of that de- and none of that re-, and don't you even suggest it."

"Fine, fine," I say. "But no offense — you're kind of, well, a mess."

He sighs a sad sigh. "No question," he says, "it's been a tough quarter. All of this talk about earnings, layoffs, and making my numbers. There's so much negativity. And now they're talking about a stimulus package. How would you like to have someone stimulate you?" He glares at me angrily.

"I just gotta believe that they're trying to help," I say.

"They keep checking on me," he says. "They call it an intervention. 'Have you bottomed out yet?' That's what they all want to know. 'Have you hit bottom?' You think that's fun to hear?"

At first, all I can do is shrug.

"Well," I offer, "at least you're doing the right thing. You know, coming here to see a shri — "

"Don't say that word!" he cuts me off. "I'm supposed to grow. Never that other word, the one you almost said."

"Look," I say, checking my watch. "Our time is just about up for this session. But I think we made a lot of progress today. I'm feeling a whole lot better, just comparing myself to you. In fact, I'm outta here." That's when I left, whistling an old favorite of mine from the '30s: "Happy Days Are Here Again."

This is the latest episode in The Spy's continuing saga, "Working Behind Enemy Lines." You can find the entire Spy chronicles on the Web (www.askthespy.com).

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